a charlie brown christmas

Lucy Van Pelt loves the beautiful sound of clinking nickels. She wants real estate for Christmas.

Snoopy challenges passersby to find the true meaning of Christmas by winning “money, money, money” in his “spectacular super colossal neighborhood Christmas lights and display contest.”

For her part, Sally Brown forgoes her lengthy list of gifts, asking Santa instead for cash — tens and twenties. You know, to make things easy. All she wants is what she has coming to her. All she wants is her fair share.

This doesn’t help Charlie Brown’s depression.

Nor do the grandiose material expressions of the holiday season –beginning as soon as our Halloween candy bowl runneth empty – help ours if we think too long about them.

Charlie Brown, wrought with insecurity and doubt, laments the commercialization of the season. More than that, though, his isolation stands out, sadness because he feels so alone amidst it all. “I know nobody likes me,” he says. “Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”

charlie brown christmasSo begins A Charlie Brown Christmas, the boy’s journey from despondency to hope. And despite the TV special airing in 1965, there is some relevance all these years later. Some of us, like Charlie, feel like our basic understanding of the season – giving, receiving, relative levels of joy – lies in contrast to popular culture’s rendition of it. Some of us, like Lucy, have embraced the latter rather than bemoan it – she prefers pink aluminum trees, and she’s not upset by it. Some of us are Snoopy opportunists. And plenty of us, to be sure, are like Linus, whose purist perspective can’t be fazed by all the noise. The resulting emotional schizophrenia is staggering, if predictable.

There’s loneliness and companionship, joy and despair, truth-seeking and blithe celebration, all during what’s marketed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Your interpretation of the season begets your holiday spirit, whatever version it may be – bah humbug and good tidings. It’s little surprise then that Charlie Brown’s soundtrack, as well as our own, is something just as introspective and shifting. Something like jazz.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

John Cale is the selector – sitting in with Justin during the second hour – guest-hosting and playing records culled from his days in the Velvet Underground, solo, and beyond. You can read our interview with Cale from earlier this year, here.

SIRIUS 460: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Marc Bolan – Pain And Love  ++ Lou Reed – Ocean ++ Modern Lovers – She Cracked ++ Modern Lovers – Astral Plane ++ Modern Lovers – Roadrunner ++ The Stooges – No Fun (Original John Cale Mix) ++ The Stooges – Little Doll (Original John Cale Mix) ++ The Stooges – 1969 (Original John Cale Mix) ++ Nico – Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams ++ Nico – Little Sister ++ Nico – Winter ++ Lou Reed & John Cale – Style It Takes ++ Lou Reed & John Cale – Hello It’s Me ++ John Cale – If You Were Still Around  (Music For A New Society) ++ John Cale –  Broken Bird (Music For A New Society) ++ John Cale – Close Watch (MFANS) ++ John Cale – Back To The End (MFANS) ++ John Cale – Hallelujah ++ John Cale – Cordoba ++ John Cale – Paris 1919 (Outtake) ++ John Cale – I’m Waiting For The Man (Outtake) ++ The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning ++ The Velvet Underground – Venus & Furs ++ The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties ++ The Velvet Underground –  Lady Godiva’s Operation ++ Domo Genesis –  Wanderer ++ Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate ++ Chance The Rapper + Social Experiment  ++ Gabriel Garza Montano – Sour Mango

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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It is not uncommon to see mouths agape at a Kevin Morby concert. A primary reason being the dynamic lead guitar work of multi-instrumentalist Meg Duffy. The way-out solo on “I Have Been To The Mountain” serves as proof enough. Having spent the better part of two years on the road with Morby and Seattle’s Mega Bog, the Upstate New York native has announced her long-awaited solo LP as Hand Habits. Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) is a proper introduction to Duffy’s titanic songwriting chops and attention to detail. Second single “Flower Glass” is a tender, down-tempo ballad fit for a long walk on chilly night. Duffy’s lucid vocals float comfortably atop golden guitar-tones and a no-nonsene rhythm section. Tracked entirely on her own between NY and her current home of Los Angeles, Duffy’s production is no-less tempting. Psych-tinged and tastefully arranged, listeners are embraced in warmth as she sings ‘hold you like a flower / hold you like an hour glass.’ words / j silverstein

Phil-Spector-ChristmasIf you have a window near, go ahead and look outside. Chances are, there are some Christmas lights up somewhere within view. In the coming weeks, you’ll probably frantically brave mall crowds and horrific parking lot jams for last-minute gifts, wondering why it is that you avoid the mall for an entire year only to finally cave when it’s impossibly chaotic, deafeningly loud and smells something like garland draped across a junior-high locker room. Nearly 50 percent of you have already seen It’s A Wonderful Life this month, and roughly 92 percent of you will catch at least one of the 22 available viewings of A Christmas Story that will run every two hours from Christmas Eve night up through the morning of the 26th. These things are undeniably Christmas. Other things are too, but somehow, the meaningful stuff is more distinct. But nearly everyone seems to live the lights, the movies and the malls. And the songs, of course.

Well before I planned to write about Phil Spector’s Christmas Album (or whichever name you prefer to call it), I was actually wondering how these holiday staples came to be–like Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist, or a Red Rider BB Gun, and most specifically, a song. Most of the jingles we carol are pretty old. Hell, “Jingle Bells” is 150 years old, while the 1930s and ’40s seem to be the heyday of holiday tradition. I guess they wouldn’t really be traditions if they weren’t old, and we like to keep them that way, apparently. Consider that Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (1942) is the best-selling single of all time, of any music, not just holiday music. (His “Silent Night,” from 1935, is third all time.) That’s not to say new traditions can’t be created, it’s just that many of them reside somewhere below the lofty status held by these longstanding customs, and I wonder if it’s even possible to create a Christmas classic anymore.

I think Phil Spector probably wondered this, too, only he was in a position to do something about it. His curated mix of holiday tunes pushes the limits of Christmas music–whether it’s tweaking the lyrics of “White Christmas” or writing his own in Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Spector, a Jew born on Christmas day, did what few were or are capable of doing. He made the largesse–both genuine and contrived–of Christmas even bigger.

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It’s the second week of December. The egg nog is spiked, the Christmas tree is trimmed, and if you grew up in the 80s, Jim Henson’s 1977 holiday epic, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, really needs no further explanation. Unsanctioned soundtrack and video after jump. Welcome to Frogtown Hollow.

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In December of 1978, Tom Waits recorded an episode of Austin City Limits. The now-mainstay music program was in its relative infancy – only its fourth season – and had built a solid fanbase of Americana music enthusiasts. As the ACL website notes:

“…the show came in through the back door, so to speak. Terry Lickona, who became producer in Season 4, was trying to book singer Leon Redbone. Redbone and Waits shared a manager, who promptly requested that Terry book his other client as well. In order to make sure the Redbone show happened, Terry agreed, even though he was nervous that the roots-oriented audience ACL had already built in its previous three seasons might think that Waits’ avant-garde gutter poetry was too radical for the show.”

The rest is history. Waits put on a stellar performance mixing songs from his then recently released Blue Valentine, some older material, and debuted “On the Nickle” which wouldn’t see a proper release until 1980’s Heartattack and Vine. If you’ve never seen the full televised performance, it’s worth seeking out.

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Haul out the holly!! Put up the tree before my spirit falls aga…” Nope, just kidding, none of that here. Conversely, Lit Up Like A Christmas celebrates the, er, other side of seasonal tidings — holiday esoterica from the far corners of vintage twang, fuzz, scuzz, r&b, blues, country, garage, lounge and beyond. So, in the spirit of the season (!!) both volumes have been re-upped. Stuff your stockings, after the jump.

We’re not sure who the mysterious folks behind the Bolan Boogie Bandcamp are, and even less sure how we missed the 4-track T.Rexmas! EP they uploaded last December, but here it is.

T.Rexmas! is mainly built around the stomping woulda-been hit “Christmas Bop,” recorded in 1975 for an aborted single that would have been paired with “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru.” It’s glammy, with a strong whiff of the disco and soul influence he was picking up from girlfriend Gloria Jones. The rest of the collection is devoted to Bolan esoterica, including a folksy 16-second track from 1971 (recalling the acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex sound), and a 1972 message produced by Tony Visconti for the Bolan Fan Club (released on flexi-disc), which alternates between good tidings from the band and loose jamming before wrapping up with a blast of “Solid Gold Easy Action,” featuring Jeff Lyne of ELO on guitar.

“Christmas Bop” popped up in Target ad last year, but the song remains an elusive get for T.Rex fans. Grab it quick, and here’s wishing a “Super Funk Christmas” to you and yours. words/ j woodbury

Download: T.Rexmas! via Bolan Boogie Bandcamp, HERE. . .

From 1963 to 1969 the Beatles issued limited edition Christmas fan-club singles on 7 inch flexi-discs. All very relaxed and off the cuff, it’s interesting to note how the cover art changed, along with the music, as the sixties rolled along. Details after the jump….